CFP: ASA09, Revisting Victorian Anthropology?

ASA09: Anthropological and archaeological imaginations: past, present and future
Bristol, UK

Re-visiting Victorian anthropology? Imagining the past through a unifying science
Location TBA
Date and Time TBA
Chris Wingfield (University of Oxford)
Chris Gosden 

Short Abstract

Victorian Anthropology was widely promoted as a unifying science of the human past. Today questions of the past and of science once again loom large and papers in this session will address what we share, as well as what we do not, with these re-discovered ancestors from before 1922.

Long Abstract

In 1987 George Stocking published Victorian Anthropology, bringing light to the development of the subject in a period often ignored or dismissed by disciplinary histories of British Social Anthropology. Victorian Anthropology was promoted by E.B. Tylor, the 'father of anthropology', as a 'unifying science' that could connect ' into a more manageable whole the scattered subjects of an ordinary education.' Unlike the more specialized discipline of Social Anthropology in the twentieth century, Victorian Anthropology was as an umbrella subject drawing on a range of sources, including archaeology, to re-construct the long-term human past. Although self-consciously historicist, Stocking's work has inevitably influenced anthropology and related subjects over the last two decades.

Recent research at the Pitt Rivers Museum, including a three year ESRC research project: The Other Within: An Anthropology of Englishness, has sought to confront the inheritances involved in the museum's legacy as an institution founded by Victorian Anthropologists. We hope that papers in this session will similarly attempt to re-visit Stocking's work, as well as Victorian anthropology itself, in the light of current research. We expect papers not only to attempt an understanding of the work of Victorian anthropologists in terms of the questions with which they grappled, but to also ask how those questions relate to those we ask ourselves today: in particular questions about how anthropology deals with the past, as well as its scientific foundations. The session should address both the similarities and the profound differences between our current situation and that of these re-discovered Victorian ancestors.

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